I admit I’m a social person. I love to be with other people and I feel more energized after talking to a friend about their recent date or visit home. Still, even extroverted people, people who feel more energized when they interact with others, get nervous. As a freshman, I was terrified by the idea of making new friends. Really, I was afraid that no one would want to be my friend. That sounds like something my five-year-old cousin would say, but it’s true. Whether you’re in Kindergarten or college, making new friends can be so intimidating that you stay alone in your room for an entire weekend eating popcorn and watching The Office on Netflix (which I did). The benefit of freshman year, however, is that everyone is also new. Penn has countless meet-and-greet events the force you to socialize with your roommates, hall-mates, pre-major advising group, and potential club members. New Student Orientation is set up such that you meet a lot of new people.
I wasn’t entirely hopeless. I was good at meeting people for the first time, and I had perfected my introduction: “Hi, I’m Izzy. I’m from Boston. Well, not really Boston, outside of Boston, but close enough. I want to study theater. Where are you from? What do you do?”, and I felt that I was making a good impression. People laughed at my jokes, and I had some company in the dining halls and orientation events. Still, I wondered, would any of this last?
That’s when I met Elizabeth. On the first day of my Intro to Acting class, I and ten other classmates went around in a circle and introduced ourselves. Elizabeth was also a freshman, from Connecticut, who was also interested in theater. We already had so much in common and she seemed so cool. Intimidatingly cool. And as much as I wanted to reach out to her, I was too nervous.
I saw her again. This time in play rehearsal in Irvine Auditorium. Neither of us had been cast in the fall show, but we were accepted as tech members. I walked in late to the first rehearsal and everyone was milling about with index cards stuck to their foreheads. They were playing an icebreaker game where you have to find the match to your card by talking to other people and getting hints about what your card might say. I caught a glimpse of Elizabeth in the crowd, and it felt like fate that we should be in the same show. But, I was the Assistant Stage Manager and she was on publicity crew. We would never see each other, I told myself. I don’t remember much of the rehearsal, but I remember a lot of introductions names and faces I would need to remember but promptly forget- and I remember not saying a word to Elizabeth.
Then, I saw her again. Or really, I heard her. I was walking into a rehearsal (late again) and I heard her voice reading for one of the lead roles. I was confused. That role was given to someone else. And Elizabeth was in the publicity crew, she wasn’t supposed to be at this rehearsal. I slipped into the rehearsal room and asked the Stage Manager what was going on. As it turns out, a cast member had dropped out of the show and Elizabeth was replacing them. This time, I didn’t want to hide from her. Sure, she was prettier than me, funnier than me, she liked the Kardashians and I liked Jane Austen, she was from Connecticut, and I was from Massachusetts, she went to private school and I went to public school. Sure, I could draw up a thousand reasons why she wouldn’t want to be my friend. But I didn’t let that stop me this time.
A few weeks later, we sat together at an event for our show and we really got to know each other. I realized that despite how effortlessly cool Elizabeth seemed, she was a person, just like me. She loved Wes Anderson movies and Kit Kats and she missed her dog, Brooklyn, back home. We bonded over movies and television, and soon we had established weekly Movie Nights in her spacious single-room dorm in the Quad.
Elizabeth and I are still friends today. She is one of the few people I am still close to from freshman year, and, no matter how busy we get with senior year obligations, exams, or shows, we always make time to see one another. Most of our hang-outs involve food. We have eaten our way around Philadelphia, from nearby fast food to Italian bakeries to trendy Center City restaurants. By getting a meal together, we are able to pause our hectic lives and focus on catching up with one another. Elizabeth never fails to support my latest project or listen to me vent about midterms. My life at Penn would dramatically different without her and I am forever grateful that after three chances, I worked up the courage to talk to her and become friends. She has remained my biggest fan, strongest confidant, and best friend throughout the past three years’ many ups and downs.
And frankly, I never really had a best friend before. In high school, I was friendly with a lot of people but I rarely got close enough to anyone to establish a strong connection. But with Elizabeth, something changed. Maybe it was being at Penn, a startlingly new place for both us that made impossible things feel possible. Maybe it was the liberation of being out of high school and wanting to redefine myself. Or maybe it was just Elizabeth. A good friend is a rare thing but when they come into their life, they will stay. There is something really special about having someone to share my entire Penn experience with, from NSO to graduation. I hope that Elizabeth and I remain friends throughout our lives because I know that somethings in life are just better with good food and good friends.